Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 9 July 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Pakistan insist tour of England still 'very much on track' despite seven more coronavirus cases in squad

A total of 10 players and the team’s masseur have now tested positive for Covid-19 ahead of August series

Wasim Khan, the chief executive of the Pakistan Cricket Board, said the tour to England “is very much on track” despite seven more players testing positive for coronavirus.

A day after it was announced Haris Rauf, Haider Ali and Shadab Khan had tested positive, the Pakistan Cricket Board confirmed another seven cases.

Fakhar Zaman, Imran Khan, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammed Hafeez, Mohammed Hasnain, Mohammed Rizwan and Wahab Riaz all tested positive for Covid-19. Malang Ali, the team’s masseur, also tested positive.

The squad are due to fly to the UK from Lahore on Sunday, ahead of three Test matches and three T20 internationals, to be played in “bio-secure venues” from the start of August.

Khan said that remains the case, despite the 10 positive tests in two days.

“The tour to England is very much on track and the side will depart as per schedule on 28 June,” Khan said.

“Fortunately, all the first-choice red-ball squad, barring Mohammed Rizwan, are negative, which means they can start training and practicing immediately, after they have been tested and given the all clear when they arrive in England

“In the meantime, [selector] Misbah-ul-Haq is reviewing the training schedule in England and is firming up plans for reserve players to be tested as a backup.”

The trio who returned positive tests on Monday had not reported prior symptoms.

The PCB said in a statement that the seven announced on Tuesday were also asymptomatic.

All have been “instructed to observe strict quarantine at their homes”.

They will assemble in Lahore and undergo a second round of testing on June 25.

“The players and player support personnel, who will test negative on June 25, will depart for Manchester on a chartered flight,” the statement read.

“Within 24 after hours after arriving in the UK, they will be tested by the ECB medical panel.

“The players and player support personnel, who will test negative upon arrival in the UK, will observe a quarantine period as per the UK government’s regulations, but will be allowed to train and practice in a bio-secure facility.”

The PCB say their players will undergo “at least five tests” in the lead up to the first Test match.

England are currently preparing for a series of three Test matches against West Indies in July at similarly bio-secure venues, at Old Trafford and the Aegeas Bowl.

The West Indies players had their first day of match practice at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

It has been estimated cancelling the Pakistan series could cost English cricket £80 million (Dh366m) in lost broadcast revenue.

Before the seven new cases in the Pakistan squad had been announced, England’s managing director Ashley Giles had also predicted the series would go ahead as planned.

“I don't think the series is in doubt,” Giles said.“We are far enough away from the start of the Test series to not worry about that too much at the moment.”

Khan said he hopes the 10 positive tests serve to remind the wider Pakistan public of the threat of the pandemic.

There have been more than 180,000 recorded cases of the virus in the country so far, with nearly 3,700 deaths.

“The recent positive tests of some of the fittest athletes, who had not shown any symptoms, clearly reflect the danger this virus possesses,” Khan said.

“As such, and on behalf of the PCB, I once again request the public to strictly adhere to all safety precautions as advised and recommended by the federal and provincial governments, to ensure their health and safety as well as of their near and dear ones.

“As regards the players who have tested positive, we will continue to monitor and support them, including conducting antibody tests. As soon as they test negative, they will be flown to join the squad in England.

“At the moment, they have been advised to go into self-isolation so that they not only recover quickly, but also prevent their other family members from being infected.”

Updated: June 23, 2020 07:02 PM

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